If you own a vehicle, you have probably heard of a catalytic converter. However, unless you are a mechanic, chances are that you don’t know what a catalytic converter actually does or how much it might cost to fix one. Thankfully, catalytic converters don’t fail often. But when they do, be ready to pay as it is not a cheap repair!
What Is a Catalytic Converter?
The catalytic converter is a very important part of your car’s exhaust system. As your engine runs, it produces harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. Your catalytic converter helps to essentially filter your exhaust gases and convert them into less harmful gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. It does this through chemical reactions inside the converter itself that occur when the converter gets extremely hot.
The catalytic converter is made of precious metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum. As it heats to temperatures over 800 degrees, the exhaust gases from your engine’s manifold pass through the converter and then out the tailpipe. The chemical reactions occur at these high temperatures and help to remove the harmful gases before they are released into the atmosphere.
How to Tell If a Catalytic Converter is Bad
There are a few ways to tell if your catalytic converter is bad and might need replacing. The first and most obvious is a failed emissions test. If your car’s emissions are too high, the catalytic converter is likely to blame. Next, a check engine light can potentially point to a converter problem as well. Oxygen sensors are constantly monitoring your exhaust gases, and they will cause the light to illuminate if the levels of harmful gases are too high.
Another signal of a problem is poor engine performance or decreased fuel efficiency. Clogged catalytic converters cause you to press the accelerator pedal harder to get the car to move like it once did. Finally, the smell of rotten eggs from your tailpipe is a dead giveaway. Since the sulfur gases are not being filtered properly, this smell coming from your tailpipe almost always points to a catalytic converter issue.
How Much Does it Cost To Replace a Catalytic Converter
Unfortunately, this is not a cheap repair. Since these parts are made from precious metals, a catalytic converter alone can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. On top of that, you will have to add in labor for a mechanic since this is not a job that most people can handle themselves. Most reliable mechanics charge $75 – $150 per hour for their work, so you can see that the expense adds up quickly. Adding it all together, and the replacement cost of a catalytic converter averages about $2,500. On the high end, it can top $4,000!
If you are having problems with your catalytic converter, there are some things you can try before completely replacing it and spending all that money. Catalytic converter cleaners are available that can remove deposits and buildup inside the converter and help unclog your converter. These solutions are simple to use. You simply pour them into your gas tank and drive your car like normal. Since these products are fairly inexpensive, it does not hurt to give them a try and see if they can fix your problem.
Catalytic converters are complicated but important parts to your car’s operation. If you are experiencing problems with yours, you should address it right away. Start with a cheap solution like a cleaner to see if that will fix your problem. If not, then prepare to part with some cash as it is quite expensive to replace these parts!